If you’ve skipped my scrib- blings all year, don’t sweat it; I’ve compiled the area’s 2010 arts and culture highlights into one handy column. And since Mom said “if you can’t say anything nice, yadda, yadda, yadda,” I’m perpetuating positivity and sticking strictly to the best of the year. So here’s my idiosyncratic Top 10 of 2010, in semi-alphabetical order. Happy New Year, and see you all in 2011!
We’re all used to performance artist Brian Feldman pulling surreal semi-political stunts, but his Valentine’s Day effort took the wedding cake. He and puppeteer/musician Hannah Miller – a passing acquaintance picked in a game of “Spin the Bottle” – were spontaneously (but legally) wed at the Orange County Courthouse in protest of same-sex couples being prevented from doing the same. Look for their divorce sequel in the near future.
It’s facile to bemoan the same old scripts on Orlando’s stages, but last January Orlando Shakes and Mad Cow took the world’s most familiar drama (Shakespeare’s Hamlet) and its dark doppelgånger (Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead), and synergized them with shocking success. Richard Width’s ballistic direction of the former, and Tim Williams’ and Michael Marinaccio’s brilliant performances in the latter, were so strong that even the Wall Street Journal took notice.
Folks might say they attend art events like downtown’s monthly Third Thursday gallery openings for the creativity, but let’s face facts: 50 percent of the time they (OK, we) are there for the free food and wine. At DailyCity.com’s December Mobile Art Show dedicated to Tess Bonacci’s installation HOARD, the complimentary comestibles offered weren’t just tasty, they were terrifyingly on-theme. What else do you serve at an exhibit inspired by crazy cat ladies (featuring a Friskies chandelier and stuffed-kitty quilt) but pastry poop and candy crap in edible litter? Meow!
Cardboard appliance-box cityscape? Check! Homemade mod mechanical guy manned by a mesmerizingly precocious Pomeranian? Check! Kick-ass catchy soundtrack? Check! We are go for Dog Powered Robot, the ridiculously awesome breakout hit from Creative Mind Experiment. Look for him as Lady Gaga’s backup dancer any day now.
A short time ago, in an Orange County Convention Center not so far, far, away, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart was reverentially interviewing George Lucas in front of an audience of adoring Star Wars Celebration V attendees. Suddenly, Mark Hamill arrived onstage (closely followed by Carrie Fisher) to unveil long-rumored but never-before-screened footage from Return of the Jedi, showing Luke Skywalker on Tatooine constructing his replacement green lightsaber. Best. Outtake. Ever.
With Sam Zell and his posse of horndog henchmen pillaging the Tribune media empire, anyone paying attention could read the writing on the wall at the Orlando Sentinel. Bravo to longtime theater critic Elizabeth Maupin for retiring gracefully with her integrity intact and landing on her feet with an indispensable new arts blog at orlandotheater.wordpress.com.
Great minds don’t always think alike, and while Ms. Maupin and I often see eye-to-eye, we’re at odds over what I consider the New York theatrical event of 2010. With FELA!, director Bill T. Jones returned afro-beat visionary Fela Kuti to life in a rapturous resurrection that had me repeatedly rising to my feet in ecstasy. Elizabeth exited at intermission. Sigh.
In a Fairwinds Broadway Across America season that ranged from ready-to-retire warhorses (Chicago, Phantom of the Opera) to affable but achingly immature efforts (Xanadu, In the Heights), Spring Awakening stood head and shoulders above as a fresh and thoughtful experience. The only thing to best it for bravery on Broadway (in my book, at least) is American Idiot, which was unsurprisingly also by director Michael Mayer.
There were plenty of aerial acrobatics and dexterous displays that dropped my jaw during Funundrum, the 2010 return of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, but nothing matched the introduction of Baby Barack – an elephant advertised as born on the eve of Obama’s inauguration – for sheer audacity of hopelessness. I wonder if the president is insulted they named a GOP mascot after him – or just glad they didn’t pick a donkey.
Building the Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the most elaborately themed 20 acres anywhere outside of Tokyo’s DisneySea: $250 million. Throwing a lavish pre-opening media orgy, offering flown-in English food, unlimited alcohol and John Williams conducting the Orlando Philharmonic as fireworks explode overhead: $250,000. Sitting in the Three Broomsticks pub eating fish and chips across from ’N Sync’s Joey Fatone and Warwick “Wicket the Ewok” Davis: Priceless.
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